Jun 03, 2016
Photography by Shawn Brackbill Issue # 57 - M83
It feels like an eternity since Captured Tracks head Mike Sniper surreptitiously stumbled across Wild Nothing, the one-man band of Jack Tatum (then living in Blacksburg, Virginia), on a late-night Myspace listening session back in 2010. Since then, Tatum has released a debut album (2010's Gemini) of what were essentially those demos, recorded a series of stopgap EPs, and hit his apotheosis with the sensational Nocturne, voted album of the year by Under the Radar's staff in 2012. There's a tinge of irony that Tatum now calls L.A. home, given the crepuscular nature of Nocturne and its late-night NYC recording binges.
"Living in NYC for four years, I never saw myself as a NY lifer," laughs Tatum on a warm day in Los Angeles, as he directs his neighbor's dog away from his porch outside of his apartment. Odd to think that just a month before, he was living in the Greenpoint area of frigid Brooklyn, blocks from the Captured Tracks offices, after finishing his third album, the wildly ambitious and sprawling Life of Pause.
Easily Tatum's most baroque album, it's flush with tasteful flourishes, thanks in large part to producer Thom Monahan. Known for his work with Devendra Banhart and Vetiver, Monahan arranged sessions with Peter Bjorn and John drummer John Erikkson in Sweden, leading to a more fleshed-out, tasteful drum sound, and Medicine guitarist Brad Laner back in L.A., who contributed his trademark shoegaze guitar sound—woozy yet melodic slashing figures. While not Tatum's Tusk, an album he's frequently expressed an admiration for due to its sheer ambitiousness following Fleetwood Mac's earlier more conventional pop, it's a quantum leap from his nascent garage band days.
It toys with classicist pop songwriting, while recombining the sounds to make them utterly vital and of the moment. "A song like 'Adore' started as one of the more straightforward songs on the record," says Tatum of the number's see-saw, jaunty melodies. "I kind of got back into how I used to write songs on the acoustic, and I'd been wanting to try something classic and was listening to a lot of Byrds records, and there's so many layers to that song now. I'd been listening to so many vocal harmonies, and that was the spark for just having a psych direction."
The record is anything but monochromatic—it's rife with a pastiche of sounds that rewards repeated listens. "I think this record is gonna take some patience, and I hope people have some," Tatum says. With an innate sense of melody as acute as Tatum's, he shouldn't have any reason to worry. Tatum's hit the roll of his life, and Life of Pause may well eventually be viewed as his magnum opus, an album like Pavement's Wowee Zowee, that was panned initially but went on to be recognized as one of the band's best. "There's a looseness here," says Tatum. "It's gonna be interesting to see how people react to Life of Pause over time."
[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's May/June 2016 Issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]
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